If you have been following the Washington Nationals’ offseason, you are aware that the team has now entered Phase Two.
If not, here is an explanation of what exactly Phase Two entails by Nats GM Mike Rizzo from Jayson Werth’s introductory press conference: “It kind of exemplifies phase two of the Washington Nationals' process. Phase one was scouting and player development, building the farm system. Now it's the time to go to the second phase and really compete for division titles and championships.”
Phase Two started with a bang—a $126 million bang, at that.
Unfortunately, it ended with a dud. As shocking and exciting as the Jayson Werth signing was, the Nationals’ front office has to be disappointed with their failure to find a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, an offseason goal set by Washington’s brain trust.
Again and again the Nationals’ targets landed elsewhere, and the team was forced to settle on a trade for Tom Gorzelanny. While Gorzelanny may not be the ace Washington was looking for, he will provide the Nats with an extra arm in case of an injury, a luxury the Nats have not had since the move to Washington.
The Nats failure to land a front-line starter may have actually been a blessing in disguise. After Cliff Lee, the 2010 crop of free agent pitchers was relatively weak, and overpaying—whether it be in the form of money or prospects—may have stunted the teams development.
As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were the 1927 Yankees, for that matter.
With Strasburg set to return in 2012 and Bryce Harper likely to make his major league debut in the same year, it would be foolish for the Nationals to put all their eggs in one offseason’s basket, especially an offseason preceding a transition year, which the 2011 season will be for the club.
The goal of any offseason should be to improve the team, and the Nationals have done that. Will it manifest itself in an improvement on last year’s 69 wins? I don’t know, but the franchise is in a better place than it was this time last year, that is for sure.
Yes, Washington overpaid for Jayson Werth, but they had to. And the effects of that deal will be felt for offseasons to come.
One, the Nationals obviously have a good relationship with Scott Boras, who represents some of the game’s biggest stars, which may give them the inside lane on his clients in the future.
Two, the Nationals are now officially players in the offseason—exemplified by the rumors that the Nats were close to signing the crown jewel of the offseason, Cliff Lee.
Lastly, the Nats’ front office has now shown that they are willing to spend, which will help keep players like Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg—a Boras client—in Washington.
In Part 2—or should I say Phase 2—we’ll look at more of the Nationals offseason moves and their impact on the 2011 Nats.